So now Annabelle knows that she and Robin will be living Blackwood, in the home that belonged to Ralph and Barbara Crabbe. How will they settle as a married couple back in Blackwood?
These are the previous parts of Annabelle’s story:
Almost two months passed, before Robin and Annabelle were back on another plane from Heathrow to Appleton, Wisconsin. In the meantime, Chris was finishing the repairs and refurbishment of the house that Ralph and Barbara Crabbe had lived in for decades. Whilst Robin and Annabelle sent wedding presents and personal items over to Blackwood ahead of them.
Annabelle wanted to spend as much time as possible with Robin’s family in England before they left. They travelled between Inkpen, Marlborough, Stourpaine, in Dorset and up to London so that they could spend time with family. When they were in Berkshire, Robin spent time working along with Nick at the estate in Inkpen. He also worked with his mother Fiona in the gardens which she had invested a lot of time and attention to.
Annabelle loved to spend time with Anna, especially watching and learning from Anna as she cooked and baked. Annabelle grew in fondness and respect for Anna the more she learnt about her new friend. The two young women would often go for walks or chat and drink coffee together.
“Anna grew up with her grandparents Robin.”
“Really Belle, what happened to her parents?” asked Robin as he was knotting his tie.
“They were killed during the war! Poor Anna was just a little girl.”
Raising his eyebrows in surprise, he asked, “Which war?”
“I think she said the former Yugoslavia. Did you know she has a sister?”
“No, I didn’t know she had a sister. I thought Anna was from somewhere in Eastern Europe. I had no idea she had grown up in a warzone.”
“Her sister was a tiny baby when their parents died. She is an artist. They are going to visit her soon. She has her first big exhibition at a gallery in Manchester soon.”
“My father said they would be away next weekend,” Robin looked down at Annabelle who was sitting on in the edge of their bed looking up at him. He smiled, “You’re going to miss Anna aren’t you? Are you still looking forward to being back in Blackwood?”
“Yes I am,” Annabelle smiled, “But I am going to email Anna while we are away. She wants to see photos of our home and Blackwood. She has given me a gift to take over for Burt and Pearl. Anna is so sweet, isn’t she?”
Robin knelt in front of Annabelle and grasped her hands, “Yes she is Belle. And so are you. I am glad you and Anna are close.”
Annabelle kept her promise as soon as Robin and her moved into their new home. She took photographs of every room and emailed them over to Anna. In response Anna sent photographs of Manchester and the artwork exhibited by her pretty younger sister Natalia. Annabelle and Anna continued to email each other frequently. Robin reminded Annabelle to make sure she kept close contact with his parents as well.
“My parents won’t want to find out that Anna knows more about what’s going on with us two than they do.”
“Oh you’re right. I am sorry Robin. I didn’t think,” Annabelle’s face revealed her dismay.
“It’s alright Belle. Those photos you’ve been taking of the house – could you send them over to my mother? She would love to see them.”
The first week they were living in their new home, Annabelle walked with Robin down to Blackwood medical practice to register him as a new patient and asked if she could make an appointment for herself.
There had been several discussions between the pair. Annabelle told her husband that it was Anna who unwittingly convinced her that going back to counselling would be a good idea. Anna had arrived in England as a child, traumatised after the violence she had witnessed in her hometown. But in addition to the support she had received as a child, Anna had mentioned to Annabelle that even as an adult, there had been times when she felt overwhelmed with stress, and felt some counselling would help her win more control over her thoughts and feelings.
Within a couple of weeks, Annabelle attended an appointment with her new therapist. After the appointment, Annabelle was reluctant to go straight home. “Can we go for a walk Robin?”
“Of course we can. Where would you like to go?”
“We could go up to West Creek and walk down into the valley and around the lake. Do you remember we walked there last year when you came over to visit?”
“I do remember. Are we planning a long walk then?”
“Well, this is what Chris and I used to do. After my CBT appointment, we would go for a walk and talk things over.”
Robin and Annabelle walked for several hours that afternoon. During their discussion, a few decisions and plans were made.
Annabelle spoke about how much she wanted to grow in confidence when it came to some of the practical tasks she was uneasy with. Annabelle mentioned that she hoped Pearl would still be happy to teach her about baking. But she also planned to to some more experimenting on Robin, trying out new recipes.
She confessed to Robin that it would help her if he was a bit more honest about what he actually enjoyed. Annabelle teased Robin about some of the expressions he had used about her cooking so far. “What an interesting flavour combination“, “I’ve never had anything quite like this,” and “Is this from an actual recipe or have you been experimenting with that spice rack?”
“It would be helpful if you were direct, like I know you want to be. I need to learn Robin.”
In addition they talked about work. Although their financial situation was comfortable, Annabelle was keen to go back to ironing for some of the older folk in Blackwood who had enquired if she might be available.
“I have been thinking about work too Belle. I need to be busy.”
Annabelle looked anxious, “Are you still applying for finance jobs in Milwaukee?”
“No, I’ve been talking with Chris actually. I was just trying to get a few feelers for how he finds work. He said a lot of it is word of mouth. He’s given me a few leads to potential clients Belle.”
Annabelle looked at Robin, “What to help people with their accounts and taxes?”
“You don’t rate me as anything but a pen-pusher do you? No, my idea was gardening and possibly some basic handyman work.”
“Gardening?” Annabelle couldn’t hide her surprise.
“Don’t look so shocked! Robin laughed.
It was not long before Robin was receiving calls from Annabelle’s ironing clients and friends of Burt and Pearl, enquiring if he was available to help with their garden. He had so many work offers that he suggested Annabelle could help with some of them. The Grainger Gardening Services duo were in popular demand.
Annabelle was pleased that Robin spent time with Chris, especially when she was trying to cook or bake something. Chris took Robin to watch the Green Bay Packers. They went fishing a couple of times. It turned out Robin had fished a lot with his grandfather on trips up to the Borders. The two men sometimes just went for a drink.
While they were out, Annabelle sometimes continued with her painfully slow, but determined, efforts to learn how to knit. She had wanted to use the knitting needles that had belonged to Barbara Crabbe. She found it very peaceful and calming to have that time to herself. It also became her quiet time to pray.
Robin admitted that sometimes Chris asked him how Annabelle was getting on with her therapy.
“That’s ok Robin. I don’t mind Chris knowing anything.”
“Are you sure? It’s just he is really easy to talk to. He seems to understand everything Belle.”
Annabelle smiled, “Chris is very easy to talk to, and he has been through it himself.”
“When we go up to Winchester for your appointment next week, how do you feel about Chris coming with us for the trip? He and I can go for a coffee while you are with your therapist, and then afterwards the three of us could drive down to Lake Winneconne?”
Annabelle was pleased with the idea. It had been eight weeks since they arrived in Blackwood, and she still found things were awkward between her and Chris. But that afternoon with Robin and Chris, down at Lake Winneconne, helped a lot. It was the first time she and Chris seemed to relax with each other. Chris asked Annabelle questions about her therapy and she responded eagerly, delighted with how he caught onto something she had said and developed it.
“I feel as if he and I were talking from the heart today Robin.”
“We could do it again sometime if you would like. Invite Chris I mean,” suggested Robin.
“I’d like that Robin.”
Robin gazed at Belle who was lying on the rug in front of him, “Are you happy Belle?”
Annabelle sat up and thought about the question, “Happier than I can remember ever being before. I think that I used to mistake happiness for fun, for pleasure, for excitement. But feeling good each day, being at peace, a constant state of contentment – I think that is real happiness. I think I am overflowing with contentment Robin.”
You can read the next part of Annabelle’s story here:
Kim, the creator of Writer Side of Life has given us some great writing prompts. Several of them appealed to me, but I have only chosen one to work on for now, because I am still playing catch up with blogging, after my trip to Australia:
I chose a prompt under the ROMANCE section: 3. Who is she waiting for?